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Damsel in Distress

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Standing outside Best Buy at 3:30 in the morning on Black Friday, Emma Swan is sure of three things: she is freezing, she hates being up this early, and she has the luckiest son in the world.

And she hates people. Especially Christmas shoppers. Okay, four things.

Taking another sip from the insulated coffee mug Mary Margaret let her borrow (which she really needs to remember to thank her for), she reminds herself for what must be the millionth time since her alarm went off at 2:45 of thing number three: she has the luckiest son in the world. Because Henry is the only reason she is here, standing outside Best Buy with fleece-lined leggings under her jeans and three layers under her winter coat as she freezes her ass off. Henry, her sweet twelve-year-old son who only had one thing on his Christmas list: the new, limited edition Star Wars: Battlefront PlayStation, only available at Best Buy on Black Friday.

Limited quantities available! First come, first served!

Consumerism could kiss her ass. It would just have to get through all the layers covering it first.

3:45. Doors open in 15 minutes. Thankfully for her, Best Buy was apparently not a high-traffic stop Black Friday morning, so when she got there half an hour before, just 45 minutes before the doors opened, she was only the twentieth person in line. The Best Buy worker asked them all as they arrived which big-ticket items they'd come for since he had some coupons for the lucky few that asked him for them first. But, as far as she was paying attention, no one in front of her was searching for the same item she was. There were a few hoping for larger-than-life (and larger-than-necessary, if you asked her) TV's, some for new cell phones, a college-aged girl that needed the new MacBook, and an older couple that just came to look at the appliances, unsure if they were even going to buy anything. From what she could tell, this was a yearly occurrence for them.

But no one else looking for her Play Station. (Which, by the way, she could get $100 off when she bought two more games if she used the coupon the dark-haired, blue-eyed employee handed her, flashing her a smile that made her heart pound in her chest even harder than it had when his silky, accented voice explained the offer.)

No one else, until the obnoxious—and, if she had to guess, incredibly drunk—trio a few people behind her showed up, ruining the quiet, sleepy murmuring of a crowd that didn't actually want to be awake and replacing it with yelling, swearing, and absolutely terrible music blasting from just-as-terrible speakers. Emma could tell that the people around her—all thirty of them, including the employee that she kept making eye contact with, were just as annoyed by the newest members of the crowd. The older couple in front of her even asked him if there was anything he could do, but he just shrugged and shook his head.

"They might be bothersome, but they're not doing any harm. There are only ten minutes until the store opens, anyway."

The couple thanked him, then turned back towards each other, the husband wrapping his arms around his wife to cover them both in the blanket over his shoulders. So, done with that conversation, he turned towards Emma, flicking his eyes in both directions before leaning closer to her and mumbling, "I do think I'm going to stop the line before them, though. Make them wait outside a little longer."

Normally, Emma would be thrown off by a complete stranger saying something like this to her, but nothing about this morning is normal. So, instead of turning away, she replies, "Well, if there's as much liquor in their systems as I think there is, they shouldn't be too bothered by the cold."

He smiles at her again, so perfectly white that she can swear it reflects the lights from the parking lot. "I thought as much as well. But I know for sure that they won't be getting the same deal you are."

Emma turns towards them for a moment, then back to the employee, whose bright blue shirt is somehow dulled compared to the shining blue of his eyes.

Not that Emma really notices that .

“They’re here for the same PlayStation?”

“Aye, they are. But there’s no way in any form of hell that they will be getting the same sale you are.” Then he walks away, but not before he winks in her direction.


 

 

Three minutes to 4:00, according to Killian’s watch.

Time to start rallying the troops together, and someone inside has the same idea, as his manager starts her own rally cry over the headsets. Will’s watch must also tell him the same (which only makes sense, since they’re the same Fitbit, bought on the same day), and he closes the usually-automatic doors behind him before handing Killian the bullhorn he had tucked under his arm.

“Ready to go, Jones? The seconds are ticking away.”

“Ready as I’ll ever be, I suppose,” he replies before taking a deep breath and raising the bullhorn to his lips. “Ladies and gents, welcome to Best Buy! Thank you all for joining us this morning, and I thank you all in advance for your patience as we get everything started. For safety and security reasons, we are going to start by allowing the first twenty people in line into the store, then the next few at a time, as quickly as we can. No forms of violence will be tolerated, and we can and will ask you to leave if this becomes an issue.”

Killian looks down at his watch, which reads 3:59, then over at Will, who pulls the first set of doors open and steps through them. He gets the nod from the manager waiting inside, and the second set of doors open.

“Good luck, and happy shopping!”

 


 

 

The first twenty people. That puts her just a handful away from the door. For the first time since her arrival—maybe because she slides her cell phone into her pocket, maybe because they’re actually getting let in—the woman behind her speaks to her. She’s very tall, her heeled boots only making her even taller, dressed much nicer than Emma with beautiful features and long red hair.

“What brings you out here this morning?”

At first, Emma is taken off-guard, quickly looking around to make sure the woman is really talking to her. And, given no one else is looking in their direction, she’s sure she is.

“My, uh—my twelve-year-old only has one thing on his Christmas list, and it’s this new, limited-edition PlayStation they’re only selling here, today. So I figured I could bundle up, make myself some coffee, and get him what he wants.”

Looking past her, she notices as the group behind her—the drunks, though the cold may have staved off some of the effects of the alcohol—turn in the direction of their conversation.

“Limited edition Playstation, eh?” she repeats, and the drunks turn to rest of the way towards them. “My daughter is going to backpack across Europe and Asia before she starts college, so she asked me for the new MacBook. Oh, I do miss when she was twelve and wanted a PlayStation instead of wanting to leave— “

But she isn’t given enough time to finish her sentence before one of the drunks practically pushes her out of the way to take her place in the conversation, a short, lanky man with a shock of greasy, dark hair and a nose much too big for his small face.

“I’m sorry, did one of you say you’re here for the new PlayStation?”

Immediately taking the defensive, Emma crosses her arms across her chest, squaring her shoulders in his direction.

“Yes, I am. Why do you care?”

“Well, I happen to know that there are a limited number of those systems available here today, and since I know much more about them that you do, I think it’s only fair that I— “

“You knowledge isn’t impressive. The ad for the store said there was a limited number available, and everyone knows that’s what stores do on Black Friday. And just because you may know more about something doesn’t eradicate the fact that I was here first .”

Emma can hear when he huffs through his nose, and wouldn’t have been surprised if it was paired with a stomp of his foot just like the toddler he is acting like.

“But what if you get in there and there’s only one left? Then we all stood in line for no reason.”

“If that’s the case, then maybe you’ll learn to get to things quicker and be more polite.”

Emma flashes him a smile just as fake as the tone of her voice, but something inside him snaps, and he takes a step towards her.

“Listen, bitch, I came here for the new PlayStation, and I fully intend on leaving with one. If I wanted to hear a woman demean me and complain, I would go visit my mother.”

“Maybe you should go visit your mother, at least she can teach you some manners.”

The man reels back as if to hit her, but the entire line has turned their attention to the two of them, so they don’t notice the automatic doors open again, or Killian stepping back out into the crowd, until he raises his bullhorn.

“Next customers, please!”

Killian’s amplified voice stops the entire crowd, and the man drops his arms back to his sides.

Thankfully, Emma is in the next group let in, and so is the woman behind her—but Killian and Will stop the line before the leader of the group of belligerents, who swears loud enough for Emma to hear.

“Don’t be such a git next time,” is all Killian says, then closes the doors between them.

Emma smiles at Killian as she passes him, and he winks at her again, causing a warmth that has nothing to do with the temperature in the store.

“Thanks,” she whispers, hanging around the front of the store a few moments longer than she needed to.

He returns her smile. “Of course, love. I’ve learned to recognize my damsels in distress.”

The smile fades off her face. “I’m not your love, and I’m definitely not a damsel in distress.” She doesn’t know where the anger behind her words comes from, and she walks away before she can do any further damage.

Knowing where she is heading, she does not pause to turn back to him, to see the look on his face, as much as she wants to. She makes her way over to the video game section quickly, having been dragged there by Henry more times than she can count, and much to her excitement, the console is sitting on the shelf, and it’s the last one. Without a moment’s hesitation, she lifts it off the shelf and wraps her arms around it, then takes a few more steps down the aisle towards the rest of the video games, knowing that she has very little time before the doors will open again and the drunks will discover that she’s taken the last box.

Standing in front of the shelf, though, she curses herself for not writing down the games Henry asked for and shifts the box on to her hip as she pulls out her phone, frantically searching for the message she sent Mary Margaret a few days back when Henry mentioned them in passing.

But she can’t find them. Is she sure it was Mary Margaret? Maybe it was David?

But as she pulls up her messages with him, she hears the group of men coming towards her and knows that she has not acted fast enough.

 


 

 

Killian stands inside the doors, warming his hands with his breath, thankful that the line this year was much shorter than the past years. But he only gets a moment’s peace before he hears one of the new young girls over headset:

“I need help in video games!”

Her voice is distressed, much more so than someone who just needs help finding something, and Killian knows immediately what has happened, worried about it since he let the drunks into the store. So he takes off in a sprint across the store before anyone else can even respond. He sees her first, the bright golden-blonde of her hair like a beacon to him, and he finds her in the middle of the aisle, her back to him, both arms wrapped around the box she is holding against her chest. One of the drunks, a man whose name Killian knows is Isaac from all the times he had to deal with— uh, help him— standing across from her, screaming profanities in her face.

The blonde herself doesn’t seem to be fazed by this, but the girl who called for help over the system, Ashley, a high school senior, is in hysterics behind the group of men, trying to get everyone to calm down, but her pleas fall to deaf ears.

“What seems to be the problem here?” he asks, much sterner than Ashley’s cries, coming up the aisle behind the blonde. She turns to him, a small smile spreading across her face, and this stops Isaac in his tracks.

“Hold this for me, love ,” she says, mimicking his accent on the last word as she shoves the console box in his arms, and before Killian can respond, she has punched Isaac square in the jaw, so hard that he falls to the floor.

Killian thinks fast, reaching for his headset to call for security, then taking the blonde by the upper arm, his other still holding the console. They turn away from the men to find Will and Leroy, one of the security officers, and Killian gestures to Isaac, still crumbled on the ground. “Get him out of here, and all his friends. I’ll take her in the back.”

Both men just nod, and his grip on the blonde’s arm softens as they walk towards the back.

“Thank you,” she says to him for the second time, and he lets go of her arm completely, using it to hold the console in front of his chest.

“‘s all part of the job. And I’ll hold this in the back for you,” he adds, holding up the box, “you’re just going to need to hang out for a few minutes, talk to the head of security and make sure you’re okay.”

Nodding, she smiles at him, more genuine than anything else that’s happened since she crawled out of bed, and he uses a key on his keyring to unlock the door to a small room, flicking the lights on to reveal a small table and three chairs, much like the interrogation room from a TV drama.

She sits down in one of the chairs, a feeling that she didn’t think she would enjoy as much as she does, and Killian sets the console box in the corner of the room.

“I’ll be as quick as I can, love,” he says, turning towards the door, but before he can leave, she speaks from behind him.

“Emma.” He turns back around to look at her. “My name is Emma.”

“Emma,” he repeats, then smiles. “I’m Killian.”

She smiles back again. “I know. You have a name tag.”

He can feel the color rushing to his cheeks, the heat taking over the tips of his ears as his hand flies up to scratch behind his ear, and, too embarrassed to respond, he leaves the room without another word. Closing the door softly behind him, he leans his head back against it, closing his eyes.

Pull yourself together, Jones , he says to himself, and is not surprised when it comes out in his brother’s voice.

But he’s never been so affected by a woman before. He turns around to face the one-way glass, taking a moment to look at her, knowing she can’t see him in the darkness of the hallway. She’s beautiful, the most beautiful woman Killian has ever seen. Her bright blonde curls reflect the harsh phosphorescence, lighting up the room as if they were the lights themselves. Her features remind him of the delicate statues in the museums near where they grew up, where Liam would take him to practice his drawing. And her eyes—he remembers the way they shone on the parking lot lights when they spoke outside, the way they sparkled when she smiled at him as he walked her to the back. Just as he is thinking about them, he watches them flash up to his, somehow managing to meet his even though he knows she cannot see him. It sends a shiver down his spine and rebuilds the embarrassed blush that just melted away, and he turns away from the window before he can see her smile before turning her attention back to her phone.

“Robin, I need you in the back,” he says into the headset, starting to remove the insulated long-sleeved shirt that he wore under his polo since he knew he was going to be outside, popping into the locker room to toss it into his locker.

“Aye, give me a minute,” the head of security responds after a few seconds. “I’m still trying to deal with these bastards you kicked out.”

Killian can’t help but smile; by the background noise, Robin said that completely in earshot of said bastards.

Without meaning to, Killian turns his attention back to Emma on the other side of the glass, running his fingers through his hair before scratching at the scruff that covers his chin, ending with his arms crossed over his chest. He doesn’t know how long he stands there for, but when Robin comes up behind him, it is not until he claps him on the shoulder that he is pulled back to reality, jumping slightly at the contact.

Either Robin doesn’t notice this, or he ignores it; either way, Killian is thankful.

“So, this is the damsel you saved from those drunk bastards?” Robin asks, following his eyes through the glass.

“Aye, but don’t call her that. She doesn’t like that.”

“And a feisty one, too? She’s just your type.” Eyes wide, Killian turns to him. “We’ve been friends for far too long for me to not recognize when you’re attracted to a woman, Killian,” Robin says pointedly—and he’s right.

But Killian would never admit that.

“I don’t—I’m not—" he stutters, then sighs. “Bloody hell.”

He tried, at least.

“Listen, mate, just give me a few minutes with her, make sure she’s okay and doesn’t want to press charges, and then she’s all yours.”

Too embarrassed to respond, Killian closes his eyes and presses his forehead against the glass, a little harder than he means to, and Emma’s eyes jump up to them.

Robin says nothing, just laughs, then opens the door and steps in.

Killian is only there for a few seconds before he hears the clicking of heels against the floor approaching him, and turns to the end of the hallway just in time to see Regina, his manager (and Robin’s fiancee) turn the corner.

“Killian, I am not paying you to stand in the hallway and fawn over some woman. Back to your section, please.”

She gives him no time to respond as she leaves him there, With a sigh, he turns back to glance quickly at Emma before following her order.

 


 

 

It only takes about ten minutes before Robin leads her out of the room and down the hallway, the console back in her arms as they walk back out into the store.

“Thanks again for all your help,” she tells him, who assured her that her assailants (the word he kept using, though it technically wasn’t the right one, since Emma was the one throwing punches) had been escorted off the property—plus gave her an extra 20% off for her troubles.

“Of course,” he responds, then smiles at her as he begins to turn away. “Tell your brother I said hello. And Killian is in the video game section.”

Not even waiting for Emma’s response, Robin heads off in the opposite direction. She can feel the blush rise to her cheeks—but how did Robin know she thought he was attractive? Sure, she had said in her statement that he had been helpful, not once but twice, but she had tried to keep her emotions out of her voice—had something she said given it away?

What if it was something Killian said instead?

Of course, given her luck, she did need to go back to the video games, having found the message she sent to David while she was waiting. So, taking a deep breath, she hitches the box up on her hip and runs her fingers through her hair—which is an action that catches her off guard, not something she normally does.

She sees him before he sees her, his back to her as he points a customer across the store. Since she last saw him, he has removed the long-sleeved shirt he had on under his blue shirt, revealing beautifully toned biceps, one of which has a tattoo of thick, black thorns wrapped around it which continues onto his forearm.

Slowly walking up behind him, he does not turn to face her; instead, he runs his fingers through his hair, stretching his arms over his head, then checks his watch. By now, she is just a few steps behind him, close enough to hear the groan escape his lips when he lowers his arms back down. A groan that resonates in Emma’s stomach, causing her heart to pound just a little harder, and she can't help but wonder what that groan would feel like with his lips pressed against her skin.

Except, that's weird and definitely not something Emma Swan usually imagines.

Though she was hoping to surprise him by coming up behind him, he chooses this moment to turn around, while she is stuck inside her head trying to figure out what the hell is going on with her. She tries to pull herself together at the last moment, but it's too late—he's turned towards her and found her staring at him, mouth agape, mostly from her own thoughts, but also somewhat from his toned arms and the perfect way his ass looked in those jeans.

“See something you like, love?” he asks with a smile, more devilishly flirtatious than he had been the rest of the morning.

Maybe her face gave it away, but she was going to try her hardest to gain her ground back. So, she straightens her back, flashes that smile right back at him, and takes the last few steps in his direction so she can softly say, “Please, you couldn’t handle it,” so he can just hear it.

The smirk he returns when he crosses his arms over his chest is exactly the response she was looking for, and his eyes flash a little brighter at her challenge for just a moment, a moment that she would have missed if she hadn’t stood her ground.

Taking half a step towards her, just an inch or two from the box she holds in front of her hips, he responds, “Perhaps you couldn’t handle it,” accentuating the  t with a wink, and for the briefest of moments, she’s convinced that he is going to lean across the PlayStation box in her arms and kiss her, in the middle of Best Buy at 4:36 in the morning.

As another customer walks up behind him and asks for his attention, she realizes that she might just be okay with that.

And that terrifies her.

So, while Killian is taken for a moment to help the little old lady behind him find some Nintendo product for her grandson, Emma grabs the two games she is looking for and bolts to the front of the store, running from her feelings once more.

 


 

 

When he turns the corner back into the PlayStation aisle, the smile fades quickly from his face. She is gone, disappeared.

Was it something he did?

He spends the next three hours of his shift thinking about her, cursing himself for the effect she had on him—an effect that he thought she shared until she left without saying anything. When it’s his turn to go on break, the first thing he does after sitting down in the break room is pull his cell phone out of his pocket and look her up on Facebook. He finds her quite quickly, mutual friends with Robin’s roommate from college, David, and some other regulars in their bar crowd.

His finger lingers over the message option on her profile, which just shows her picture, her name, and “Boston College Alumni,” but he can’t bring himself to message her.

It would be weird.

It would be more than weird; it would be creepy as fuck. All he’d done was make sure she was okay, watch her sock some asshole in the jaw, and put the console aside so she would still have it. Nothing that would make it less creepy for him to find her on Facebook and friend request her just hours later.

He’d just have to resort to not being able to get her out of his mind for the next few weeks, hoping that she would have some need to come back to Best Buy and he would get the chance to see her again. But the chance doesn’t come.

At least, not that way, it doesn’t.

But it does come a few weeks later when Robin invites him one night to a Christmas Party held by his friend David and his wife, Mary Margaret. David, who Emma was friends with on Facebook.

The hopes of seeing her again aren’t the only reason he says yes, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

He gets there early with Robin and Regina to help set up, even though both of them told him it wasn’t necessary. But to him, the necessity of it seemed obvious. David had invited him, and Robin had insisted he come with them since David and Mary Margaret’s apartment was miles across the city. So what was he supposed to do, show up early and sit at the bar and watch while everyone else set up?

That would be bad form, and he was raised to be better than that.

Of course, it would also mean that he would have started drinking and become comfortable enough with the apartment to (hopefully) be less awkward when Emma does show up.

Or, at least, that was his plan. He never expected for her to already be there when he arrived an hour before the party was supposed to start, standing over a large pot in the kitchen wearing a tank top and pajama pants, her hair piled in a large knot on top of her head.

“Killian!” David greets, wrapping him in a tight hug before taking his jacket. Thankfully, because of the angle between the front door and the kitchen, Killian watches Emma’s head snap up from over the pot when she hears his name and smiles at her when her eyes widen, meeting his. “It's great to see you again! It's been too long!”

Since he'd seen Emma's reaction, he could turn his attention towards his host. “Far too long,” he replies, hugging him back. And it had been too long, almost ten years since he and Robin had graduated together, the year after David. Killian had forgotten he still lived in the city until Robin invited him to the party, though they were both going to be involved in Robin's wedding, though that wasn't for another year.

“This is my wife, Mary Margaret,” David says, wrapping his arm around the waist of a short woman with a brunette pixie cut, wearing a long-sleeved red and white striped dress. “Mary Margaret, this is Killian. He graduated with Robin. He was Will's roommate.”

“Killian, it's so nice to meet you!” Her small, soft hand is as warm as her welcoming smile. “David said you've spent the last few years back in England?”

“Yes, ma'am, that's true. My mum got sick, so my brother and I went back home to spend some time with her before she passed.”

“I'm sorry for your loss, Killian,” she says, and for the first time in a while, Killian feels it may be genuine.

“Thank you, love, but please don't let my sob story get in the way of your Christmas celebration.”

David cuts back into the conversation before anyone has a chance to respond to him. “Killian, come out here and meet my sister!”

For a moment, Killian's eyes go wide, meeting Robin's smile across the room as he turns to face David. And, of course, to make all of Killian’s matters worse, there’s no one left to introduce him to but Emma, the reason he came out to this party in the first place.

“Emma, this is Killian. Killian, this is my sister, Emma.” Emma smiles at him, taking a step away from the large pot she is watching over for the first time since he came through the door. For a moment, Killian doesn’t know how to respond: does he act like he’s never met her? Like he’s not completely tongue-tied and can hear his heart pounding in his ears?

“Actually, Killian and I have already met,” Emma says quickly, possibly recognizing the fear that flashes across his face when she takes his outstretched hand.

“You have?”

“Yeah, remember on Black Friday, when I went to Best Buy and punched that guy in the face?”

David turns to Killian, eyes wide, and he can tell that he is trying to hide the smile on his face. “That was you ?”

“No, no, no,” Killian interrupts before Emma can do it herself. “I was the Best Buy employee that watched the whole thing happen.”

David allows the smile to take over his face. “Well, that’s good, or else this night could have gotten very awkward. But what are you doing, working at Best Buy? I thought you were a professor when you were in England?"

"Aye, I was, but when I came over, it was the middle of the semester. I have a couple of applications out for the fall semester that I'm meeting within the next couple months, so Best Buy is just to make some money to pass the time. Robin got me in."

"Of course, that makes sense. Now, can you help Emma with the cider, so she can go get ready? I really appreciate it.”

Before either of them can answer, he’s gone, back into the living room without another word.

“You mean, that’s not what you’re going to wear to your brother’s Christmas party?” Killian asks after the moment of silence that passes between them is already too much for him. God, what an idiot, he hears the voice of his brother in his head, always there when he makes a fool of himself. Weeks of thinking about nothing but this girl, and all he can do is crack jokes.

Thankfully, she gives as good as she gets, a soft smile spreading across her face. “I know that pajamas are a pretty customary option for Christmas parties, but I was thinking something a little more flashy.” 

“Why, is there going to be someone here you want to impress?” He doesn’t know what makes him say it, and as soon as he sees the blush rise up her cheeks, he regrets it. He’s been here for less than five minutes, has insulted her clothing, made a fool of himself, and embarrassed her.

“Maybe there is,” is all she says, taking a step away from him, then turns her eyes towards the pot on the stove. “Watch the cider. Don’t let it start to bubble, or else you’ll cook all of the alcohol out,” she says quickly, her eyes not meeting his again, and she pushes past him and out of the kitchen.

God, you’re a bleeding idiot , he thinks, and this time, the voice is his own.

What if she has a boyfriend? What if she invited a date, someone she actually wants to be with, that she’s spoken to over the past three weeks? What right does he have to show up here, at her brother’s house, for a Christmas party, acting like he’s done anything to earn her affection?

 


 

 

Her hands are shaking by the time she reaches the guest bedroom, suddenly overcome with the biggest wave of embarrassment and nervousness that she may have ever felt before. There’s only one reasonable option: she needs to talk it out.

Mary Margaret is too busy readying her house for the party, and, as much as she likes Regina so far, she doesn’t know her well enough yet to come to her with… all of this. So, she pulls her cell phone out of the pocket of her pajama pants, taps a few places, and lays it down on the bad, falling face-first into the pillow next to it as the other end of the line rings.

“Em, what’s going on?”

From the distance behind Ruby’s voice, she can tell that she is driving, though hopefully not already to the party, but since it’s only a few blocks away, Emma doubts she’s already on her way.

Emma groans into the pillow, then turns her head towards her cell phone, and once the words begin, she can’t seem to be able to stop them. “Remember Black Friday when I went to Best Buy to buy Henry’s PlayStation and I told you about that absolutely gorgeous employee with the brightest blue eyes and the most gorgeous smile I’ve ever seen? And how I flirted with him before I left but was too embarrassed to own up to it, so I left while he wasn’t looking?”

“Yes, of course I remember. With the silky accent and the tattoos. Why?”

“He’s here.”

“Where?”

“David’s.”

“Wait, the guy from Best Buy, who watched you punch some guy in the face, that you thought wanted to kiss you and you left because you realized how much you wanted him to… that guy?”

“Yes.”

“Is at your brother’s apartment?”

“Mmhmm.”

“For the Christmas party?”

“Yes. He’s apparently some old friend of David and Robin’s from college who spent most of the last ten years in England with his dying mother, but now he’s back and is back in Boston and back in David’s life and is currently in his apartment helping them get ready for the party.”

“Well, shit.”

Emma just groans in response.

“Does David know?”

“That he’s the guy from Best Buy? Yes. That I haven’t been able to stop thinking about him for three weeks? Fuck no.”

“Why did he show up an hour early?”

“He came with Robin. I guess he lives all the way across the city and Robin offered to drive him, but that meant he had to come early and help them get ready.”

Ruby hums, trying to fit all the pieces together. “But just… hear me out, Em: what seems to be the problem? You can’t stop thinking about him, and now he’s in the same room as you. Just flirt with him, see what happens.”

“That’s not the problem,” Emma says pointedly, and she can almost see the way Ruby’s eyebrows knit together.

“Then what is the problem?”

“I also invited Walsh.”

“You did what ?”

“I saw him again the other day and things were just too weird and it got really quiet and I… invited him to the party.”

“I thought you broke up with him?”

“I thought I did, too! And then he came into the coffee shop again and I…” She lets her voice trail off, completely unsure of what to say.

“You invited him to your brother’s Christmas party.”

“Yes, apparently.”

“Does Mary Margaret know?”

“About which one? Me inviting Walsh, who is supposed to be my ex, or that the man I apparently fell for in Best Buy is friends with David and showed up out of the blue?”

Emma can hear Ruby’s gasp over the phone, and she cringes a bit when she realizes what it is that she said. “Emma, did you just say that you’re falling for him? Are you sure this is the right Emma Swan, the one that I met in AP lit in high school and was my roommate for all four years at Boston College?”

“Don’t overreact, Ruby, it’s not that big of a deal— “

 Not that big of a deal? Emma, you don’t label relationships or feelings or anything of the sort. You stopped calling Mary Margaret’s your brother’s ‘ friend ’ when they got married, and you’ve certainly never admitted to falling for anyone before.”

Flustered, Emma stands up, needing to do something, so she starts to change. “I should never have called you!” she calls out, not trying to hide it from Ruby.

“You know you love me!” she hears on the other end of the line, then the definitive slamming of a car door: Ruby’s at her apartment. “Wait, wait!” Ruby yells, suddenly overly excited once again. “What are you planning on wearing?”

“I have my nice dark jeans and a white shirt, and Mary Margaret’s letting me borrow a green sweater to make it somewhat festive .”

“Oh, no, no, no, that won’t do at all,” Ruby responds, clicking her tongue in disgust.

“Well, I just put it on, and it would be weird for me to change and then change again when you got here.”

“If you just put it on, what were you wearing before?”

“My pajamas.”

Ruby’s scream on the other end of the line is exactly what she expects to hear. “He got there and you were in your pajamas? Why didn’t you open with that? You definitely need my help!”

“Ruby, no!” she tries, but it’s too late— she can hear Ruby shuffle through their small apartment before she slides open the door to her closet, then as she ruffles through her hangers. There’s no going back now.

“I’m assuming you’re opposed to red leather?” she asks, but doesn’t wait for an answer. “I have a couple of dresses that might do the trick. Can you give me five minutes? I’ll be right there.”

Before Emma can even reply, she’s gone. She can only sit on the bed for about thirty seconds before her nerves get the best of her, and she needs to do something to keep herself from thinking about Killian, just outside the door in that stupid unbuttoned black Henley and jeans, his jet black hair perfect and matching what she could see covering his chest, with his impossibly blue eyes and his bright smile—

Yeah, she can’t deal with this. So, having slipped into her jeans but not into a different shirt, she opens the door that leads straight to the bathroom and begins doing her makeup, a soft look that Ruby made her practice hundreds of times in possibly just as many mirrors since the first time she asked her friend for dating advice in the eleventh grade.

She’s just started to curl her hair when she hears the door to the apartment open and everyone greet Ruby, who responds in kind, then asks, “Where’s Emma? I have some stuff for her.” Somebody must point her towards the guest bedroom, because within seconds, she’s standing behind her in the bathroom, a large tote bag over her left arm.

“Alright, so here’s what I have,” Ruby starts, not even saying hello before she starts pulling dresses out of the tote bag: a bright green sundress, definitely not fit for the occasion; a black leather dress that Emma knows fits her incredibly well, but still does not feel like the right vibe for the night; a red-and-white striped long-sleeved dress that looks too much like Mary Margaret’s to be feasible, though Emma thinks it probably came from a costume store and not the Dress Barn, or wherever Mary Margaret found hers.

But next, Ruby pulls a dark red dress out of the bag, with short sleeves and a knee-length skirt, a thick black belt separating the plain top and the cream-colored lace-covered bottom.

“Wait,” Emma says, reaching out to take the dress from her friend’s hands, then holds it up to herself, taking a moment to give it a good look before meeting Ruby’s eyes in the mirror. “I like this one.”

Ruby smiles at her. “I like that one, too. Somehow I thought that would be the winner.” She gathers the other dresses back into the tote bag, still smiling at Emma, who is still staring at herself in the mirror. “I’ll give you a minute, and then I’ll help you finish your hair. You’re gonna knock his socks off.”

 


 

 

He must have done something. He overstepped his boundaries, went too far with something he said in the kitchen with her, and that’s why she’s taking so long to get ready. That’s why she had to call that tall brunette that showed up, the one Mary Margaret told David she must have called, because she never shows up early to anything, and especially not to “help Emma.”

So, the only thing he could think of doing was taking a step back, wrapping his hand a little tighter around the bottle of beer David handed him as he claimed his spot in the corner of the room, where he could sit on the tall stool that Mary Margaret told him to plant there and look out over the party as it started.

After what felt to him like hours, but couldn’t have been more than twenty-five minutes, Emma and the other brunette finally come back out of the bedroom, and Killian can swear that he feels his heart stop beating in his chest and try to climb its way up his throat.

She is beautiful, absolutely stunning, in a maroon dress that makes her skin look like ivory, a flawless porcelain that he wants to feel under his fingers. Her hair falls over her shoulders in waterfalls of perfect curls, shining with the reflection of the Christmas lights hung around the apartment. Everything about her is incredibly exquisite, and most likely not even because of him.

And that hurts more than anything else. He watches her from across the room, chatting with David and Robin for a while, then Will and his friend Jeff once they showed up. An hour passes, uneventful in every way including the fact that he does not talk to Emma again, even after she smiled at him.

He keeps his distance, stands his ground, and leaves her alone.

And hates every goddamned minute of it.

Especially around another half-hour later, when a man dressed completely to the nines, the suit-and-tie-and-pocket-square-to-any-occasion type that he's always hated, comes in, passes right over the hostess' smile and greeting (though Killian doesn't miss the glare he receives from David), and bounds across the room to where Emma is standing in the kitchen with the other girls. He watches as her eyes go wide for just a moment before curling her mouth into a smile, one that Killian can tell from across the room doesn’t quite meet her eyes.

It’s going to be a long night.

 


 

 

“Hey, gorgeous,” Walsh murmurs in her ear, pressing his lips against her cheek. His movements surprise her, just as much as she surprised herself the week before when she invited him to the party in the first place.

“Hello, Walsh,” Emma says, as civilly as she can, but smirks over her wine glass at Ruby, who just glares at him.

“You look stunning,” he says, his grin spreading across his face in a way Emma can’t get her own to do.

“Thanks,” she says flatly, but tries to look around the apartment as nonchalantly as she can, searching for Killian without really meaning to.

The seconds tick by slowly, dragging into minutes, as she stares across the apartment in his direction.

She would never admit that she’s looking at him, just simply staring into space, but she can’t help herself. Mary Margaret made the mistake of asking Walsh about his job, and so he might never stop talking—part of the reason she broke up with him a few weeks back, or at least, thought she broke up with him. But Killian stands across the room, leaning back against the windows while he talks to Will and Jeff.

She must have said something to him before she went to get ready, something to turn him away. She just wishes she knew what it was that she did, so she could go back and undo it.

What would Walsh have done if he showed up to find her standing next to Killian, his arm draped across her shoulders, just like Walsh’s is now? She’d give anything to find out. She should have just told him when he got there, told him that she hasn’t been able to stop thinking about him since Black Friday.

Instead, she only said a handful of words, some of which made him put as much space between them as he could. But this is driving her insane, stuck staring at him from across the room. It’s just not fair, how good he looks, half-leaning against the wall with his beer bottle in his hand. His hair has become slightly unruly from him running his fingers through it, and he’s pushed the three-quarter-length sleeves up his arms past his elbows, revealing the edges of that damned dark ink again.

She turns her head to look at Walsh, who smiles down at her and tightens his arm around her. He’s always in a suit, no matter where it is he’s going, and he’s handsome, but he’s…

He’s nothing compared to Killian, who finally turns his eyes to her when she looks back at him again and turns the corner of his mouth up in the slightest smile before averting his eyes once more.

She can’t help but think back to what she told Ruby on the phone. Was she really starting to fall for him? Was that even possible, after meeting someone once?

It can’t be possible, she decides. She’s just going insane.

That must also by why she can’t stop thinking about him and can’t keep her eyes off him.

Yeah, that must be it.

 

The more Emma drinks, the quicker the time begins to pass. Mary Margaret turns on jazzy Christmas music in the living room, and David quickly asks her to dance. Robin does the same with Regina, so Walsh follows suit and holds his hand out to Emma. Everything in her tells her to turn him down, but the wine gets the best of her and takes his hand for him to lead her into the living room.

He’s not a bad dancer, he never has been, but he’s just so… dull. He spends the entire dance telling her about work, things she is entirely sure he’s already said that evening.

Thankfully, the song is short, as Christmas songs tend to be, and it’s only a few minutes before the music fades out.

“I have to use the bathroom,” she says as politely as she can, and tries to turn away from him and towards the bedroom doors at the back of the apartment. But he doesn’t let go of her hand when she turns away, staying next to her.

“Let me help you,” he says, following behind her, and she doesn’t argue with him. Since her head is spinning just the slightest bit, maybe it’s not the worst idea for Walsh to help her across the living room and into the spare room so she can get to the bathroom.

 


 

Killian watches as Emma pulls her date through the living room and into the back bedroom, contempt burning through his veins. It’s bad enough she had to dance with him, right in front of his eyes, her body pressed tightly against his, and now she can’t even hold herself together enough to be civil and wait for the other guests to leave before taking him to her room.

Just his luck.

He feels his jaw tighten at the thought of it and finishes his bottle of beer just to give himself something else to do.

“Hey, Killian, you okay, mate?” Will asks from beside him, clapping his hand on his shoulder, and Killian snaps his attention towards his friend.

“Yeah, uh, I’m… fine. I need another beer.”

He holds his empty bottle up for emphasis, then pushes himself off the wall to head towards the kitchen.

But he’s stopped in his tracks halfway there, when he hears Emma yelling from the bedroom, following by a sharp scream.

“Walsh, what the fuck?!” He hears her words clearly, but they barely register when he takes off into the bedroom, followed closely behind by David and Robin.

He makes it through the door just in time to hear her date, who has her pressed down on the bed, say, “You invited me here, Emma. Tell me this wasn’t what you wanted.”

Everything turns red as he grabs the collar of his suit coat, tearing him off her.

“Obviously this wasn’t what she wanted,” Killian says, his teeth clenched, and pushes him back against the wall, David and Robin standing on either side of him.

“David,” he hears from behind him, and all three of them turn to see Emma on the bed, curled around one of the pillows.

“We’ll get him out of here,” Robin says, and David takes a step back, turning him over to the other two men.

With Robin keeping hold of the back of his shirt, Killian takes him by the arm and pushes him out of the room.  

After David closes the door behind them, Robin leans closer to the man’s ear, and if Killian were any further away, he wouldn’t have been able to hear him growl, “You’re lucky David’s still in there, or else he’d be leading you out of this damned apartment in handcuffs.”

“I’m sorry, okay? I—" He tries to start, but Robin rams him into the doorframe on their way out of the apartment, then closes the door behind them. Killian releases his arm as Robin spins him around, pushing him against the wall next to the door to the apartment.

“You don’t get to talk. Just get the fuck out of here, don’t come back, and stay away from Emma. Understand?”

The man just nods, wincing as Robin lets go of him.

“Good. Now, leave.”

Robin squares his shoulders, standing with his hands behind his back, and Killian mirrors him, both of them watching him walk down the hallway. Once they hear the elevator doors close just around the corner, Robin relaxes, clapping his hand on Killian’s shoulder.

“Thanks for your help,” he says softly, a light smile ghosting across his face.

Killian tries to smile back, but it just won’t come. He’s just too worried about everything.

About Emma.

“Is she—is she going to be okay?”

Robin runs his hand over his face, then lets out a long sigh. “She’s a tough girl, but it’s hard to say with things like this.”

Killian rests his forehead against the wall next to the doorframe, pulling at his hair with his fingers.

“You care about her, don’t you?”

Keeping it pressed against the wall, Killian turns his head towards Robin and expects to see him smiling, but instead, he’s very serious.

“She hasn’t left my thoughts since Black Friday. Which sounds insane, since I’ve only met her once. But I… yeah, I’m—I feel something for her, at least.”

Now, the edge of Robin’s lips turn up in the beginnings of a smile. “Good. She deserves someone who’s not a complete idiot.”

Finally, a breath of a laugh escapes him, and he stands up straight. “Thanks, mate.”

“Of course. Now, let’s get back to the party.”

Just as Robin’s hand hits the doorknob, it swings open in front of him to reveal David, both of them just as surprised to see the other.

“Hey,” David says, at the same time Robin says “We’re just coming back in.”

“Good,” David replies. “She’s asking for you.” He turns to Killian, the corner of his mouth ticking up in a smile. “I didn’t even know that she knew you, but she, uh… she wants you.”

Killian’s head snaps up at his words, eyes wide.  

“She—what?”

“She’s really shaken up, and I asked her what I can do to make her feel better, and she told me that there’s nothing I could do, but she wants me to come out here and get you.”

He’s shocked. Stunned. Astonished.

And—he can’t help it—a little excited? Not about the events of the night, or even the fact that he gets to console her. Just that she wants him, wants to be with him, hopefully as much as he wants to be with her.

He makes his way across the apartment, everyone’s eyes on him as he knocks softly on the door to the spare bedroom and lets himself in. After closing the door, Killian turns to Emma, still curled up on the bed. Slowly, he fills the space between himself and the bed, sitting on the edge as gently as he can.

He doesn’t know what to do, even more so than the rest of the evening.  So, all he can do is sit there, rigid and unmoving, his eyes focused solely on her.

“Killian,” she mumbles, reaching her hand out to find his, and he moves back a few inches on the bed to be closer to her.

“Are you okay, love?” he asks, his voice as soft as he can make it, but all she does in response is pull him closer to her. He lays down parallel to her, as much of the bed between them as he can put without falling off the edge, her hand around his in a death grip.

They stay that way for a while, the seconds ticking away on the clock across the room, until suddenly the silence of the bedroom is overtaken by the sounds of Emma’s sobs.

“Oh, Emma,” he whispers, reaching his other hand out slowly to gently touch her arm.

Much to his surprise, she inches her way across the bed until she can press her face into his chest.

“Killian,” she says again, a little stronger this time, her breath starting to even out, and then after a few more breaths, she turns her eyes up to him. There isn’t much light in the room, just a lamp next to the bed and the light coming out of the bathroom, but he can just see her face.

“What can I do to help you, Emma?”

“Just… stay here with me,” she whispers, taking his hand off her arm and moving it to wrap around her back.

As gently as he can, he presses his lips to the top of her head.

“Aye, I think I can handle that, at least, love.”

She hums into his chest, spreading a warmth across the skin there, and he smiles into her hair. Tightening his grip around her, he shimmies a few inches further onto the bed, pulling one of the pillows down to hold his head up, and it’s just a few minutes before he’s pretty sure she has fallen asleep.

 

The party must slowly come to an end as the minutes pass further into the night. The clock across the room reads just after midnight when the door slowly creaks open, revealing Mary Margaret, lit up by the lights from the apartment. Killian turns towards the door, squinting his eyes in the light, but Emma is unmoving, still asleep in his arms.

“How is she?” Mary Margaret whispers, walking towards the bed.

“She’s been asleep for a while,” he replies, and he can see Mary Margaret’s smile in the dim light.

“That’s good.” She sits down gently on the edge of the bed, softly running her fingers through Emma’s hair. After a few moments, she turns her eyes up to Killian. “Robin and Regina are getting ready to leave, they want to know if you need them to take you home.”

He looks down at Emma, nosing his face in her hair. “Do you think she wants me to stay?”

Her smile spreads so wide that her nose crinkles. “I really don’t think she would mind that.”

His head snaps up, finding Mary Margaret’s eyes in the dark. “Really?”

“She has barely stopped talking about you.”

“That’s good, because my thoughts have been on nothing but her.”

Emma chooses this moment to let out a soft groan and burrow her face further into Killian’s shirt, which she holds tightly in her fist.

“I’ll check on you guys again in the morning,” Mary Margaret says, pushing herself off the bed. The last thing Killian sees before he closes his eyes is Mary Margaret’s smile, the feel of Emma so soft and real and warm against him.

 


 

The first thing Emma feels when she wakes up is warm. Warm and comfortable and safe. The light is seeping around the edges of the curtains, and she pulls the comforter up over her shoulders, nuzzling her face into Killian’s shirt.

Into…

Killian’s…

Shirt?

She pulls away from the source of the heat, just enough to see the lines of his face in the morning light. It’s definitely him, there’s no doubt about it. From the peaceful beginnings of the smile on his face to the way his long eyelashes lay across his cheeks, there’s no denying that the man she wakes up next to is Killian Jones.

Slowly, it all starts to come back to her, everything that happened the night before, from calling Ruby to what happened with Walsh, to telling David that she just wants Killian.

Because it’s true. She may have already believed it before, but after everything that happened in the last twelve hours, she’s completely sure of it. She just wants to be with Killian Jones.

Which is, of course, absolutely insane. She's met him once before tonight, has spoken to him just as many times, but something about that meeting left its lasting mark on her, so much so that she traded her own brother for him when she needed someone to comfort her.

He starts to shift slightly under her, a low groan starting in his chest, and she holds her head up with her hand, elbow resting on the pillow beside his head, and smiles down at him as he slowly starts to open his eyes.

It's a smile he returns to her after taking a moment to adjust to everything around him.

“Good morning,” she whispers, the tips of the fingers on her other hand ghosting the scratchy scruff on his chin.

“Morning,” he mumbles back, his voice heavy with sleep, but his smile quickly fades, the heat from his hand on her lower back disappearing when he asks, “Are you—are you okay?”

“Why wouldn't I be? Some of what happened last night may not have been opportune, but I would say I came out victorious with my knight in shining armor.” She smiles again, as genuine as the words of her response, and she can feel his body begin to soften again.

“It's always a pleasure to be able to save a damsel in distress, love.”

Still smiling down at him, she hits his chest with the back of her hand. “Luckily for you, you're growing on me.”

He raises one eyebrow at her, the smile on his face growing into something devilish. “That's not the rumor I heard going around last night.”

Her face mirrors his, standing up to the challenge. “What rumor might that have been?”

“I heard that you haven't stopped talking about me and how much of a dashing rapscallion I am since Black Friday.”

“There might be some truth in that, Jones.”

“Good,” he says, his face suddenly growing serious again. “Because I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since I saw you in that line. The only reason I came to this party was because I was hoping you would be here, but I didn't know David was your brother.”

“Do they know that?” she asks, pointing her thumb in the direction of the door.

“Gods, no. And hopefully they never will. All I wanted to do was ask you out, to lunch or have some coffee or something.”

“Well, what about breakfast and coffee at my brother's apartment on Christmas morning? I bet David even has some pajamas that you could borrow.”

“In all honesty, love, it's not your brother's pants I would like to get myself into.”

She pulls away from him again, sitting up just enough to take in the shit-eating grin that covers his entire face, from his perfect dimples to the laugh lines around his sparkling blue eyes. She watches as a wave of worry crosses his features, worry that his joke may have gone too far or that she doesn't agree with him (but oh, does she ever), and it's the uncertainty that stays behind as the wave passes that makes her reach her hand around the back of his neck, pulling her lips to his. His lips are soft and warm and everything she needs them to be, and she can't stop the smile that spreads across her face at the feel of them against her own. After a moment, she feels Killian's hand slide up her back and into her hair, his fingers pressing into the base of her skull to pull her closer to him. Pulling herself up on top of his chest, she runs her tongue over his bottom lip, then takes it between her lips to suck on it before releasing it to feel his tongue slide against hers, both of her hands sliding up his chest to weave into his unruly hair. He wraps his arm tighter around her, his other still tangled in her blonde curls. Once neither of them can take any more, she pulls away from him, leaving her forehead pressed against his.

“That was—” he whispers, a smile spreading across his lips, but she finishes the thought:

“Just the beginning.”

 

And he's beside her again a few weeks later for Christmas morning, a smile never leaving his face as he watches Henry unwrap the box that holds the console his mother knocked someone out for, the console that brought him together with the woman that he realizes very quickly he is absolutely in love with.

When he asks her two years later on Christmas Eve if she'll marry him, there's not a doubt in her heart about it being the right thing to do, especially when she looks across the room and sees the smile across Henry's face. Thankfully, she never has to go Black Friday shopping again, but telling people the story of how she met her husband quickly becomes Emma Swan-Jones’ favorite thing to do.